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Leg 20 (1) Moue NWWE to White Grass NVVW

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Leg 20. Part one. The Chopper.

From NWWE Moue (L’Ile-des-Pins) to NVVW White Grass (Tanna)

As I sat down to rest here amidst the shadows of oak leaves under the blue sky of southern England, it comes to me with a certain quality of astonishment that my participation in these amazing adventures of the ATWC was, after all, the outcome of the purest accident. It might have been any one. I fell into these things at a time when I thought myself removed from the slightest possibility of disturbing experiences. I had gone to Guildford because I had imagined it the most uneventful place in the world. "Here, at any rate," said I, "I shall find peace and a chance to rest!"

Fat chance.

The phone was ringing again. I let it ring. It didn’t stop. So it was to be a battle of wits, the phone with its portent of who knows what? Intriguing, yet a drag. Demanding but ignorable. Inviting but irritating against my inertia, my idleness, my lethargy. 

Still it trilled on like a budgie with nothing better to do in its cramped cage but to taunt and annoy me. The phone won. I answered reluctantly putting the dammed thing to my ear.

“What” I snapped, quickly followed by a fawning “Oh hi Jasmin, how are you, it’s been a while.”

“Shut up and listen” she barked. Clearly she had had a few sherbets last night as well.

“I am all ears” I said.

“Meet me in twenty minutes in the Stephen Langton and bring your dog.”  She hung up.

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The Stephen Langton. Great local beers and the best selection of gins ever. Paradise.

Twenty minutes later I was in the bar of the most dog friendly pub in the world with a pint, a bag of nuts and Rio my dog. People came and went in groups or only accompanied by their dog but there was no sign of Jasmin.  I was contemplating my second pint when a copy of the Times was slapped down on the table next to my pint. I turned to see an elderly woman with a Pekinese in her shopping basket. Hmm Shopping for Rio’s lunch I joked to myself. Rio, as if he could read my thoughts, perked up, alert and giving the basket a hard stare. I looked at the basket again and relaxed. It wasn’t the Pekinese he was interested in it was the wrapped bunch of sausages squashed in with the dog that had his attention. Well it was wrapped at one time, but little Pekinese had had a go at them. Serves the daft old bat right.

“It’s me.” The daft old bat hissed

“I am sure it is! I said but I am waiting for someone so if you wouldn’t mind…”

“No you twat, it’s me, Jasmin” I looked properly at the daft old bat.  Stone me it was Jasmin!

“What’s with the disguise” I said, a little too loudly.

“Nobody in the department is safe, Putinfeld has a contract out on us all” she whispered.

“What including me!” I yelped. What have I got myself into?

“No don’t be daft, you are not that important. In fact quite the opposite, word on the street is that you are a protected man, he wants you kept alive at all costs”

I felt better although a tad curious as to why Putinfeld was now my best mate. Jasmine didn’t know, but was here to warn me that something very big was going down, but she wasn’t at liberty to say what. So, helpful as ever. I was to keep my ear to the ground and a sharp look out for anything out of the ordinary.

“What like a good friend of mine lurking about dressed up Margaret Rutherford on steroids?”

“This is serious” she whispered, “read the paper, you will find something you need in it” and then she was gone.

I turned to the paper, rolled up on the table and picked it up. It was heavy, and then with a clunk something slid out of it and fell to the floor. It was a gun. I picked it up, my heart racing. Guns in England are not good. I could go to prison for a minimum of 5 years and up to 14 years for just having one in my possession. This one was fitted with a silencer and so was nearer the 14 than the 5 end of things, and besides, they scared the brown stuff out of me. With a silencer, a hand gun is a fairly large hunk of metal, hence the Daily Telegraph, the Times wouldn’t have covered it. I hid it back in the newspaper and rushed out to the car. I hadn’t even finished my pint.

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When I got home I set the paper and its contents down on the dining room table. It was then that I noticed an envelope that was also inside the paper.  I opened the note and read it.  It was brief but to the point. “Get yourself to L’Ile-des-Pins in New Caledonia as soon as you can”. I had no idea where that was, so I googled it. I discovered it was slap bang in the arse end of nowhere. There was also a lime green “Fragile” sticker with the note, some further instructions on how the gun worked and what to do with the sticker.

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The red marker pinned to the arse end of nowhere.

My destination would take the best part of a week to get to as it meant flying from London Heathrow to Melbourne (BA), then Melbourne to Noumea Tontouta Airport (Aircalin) Noumea Magenta Airport to L’Il-des-pins. (Air Caledonia). At the final destination I was to pick up the baton and fly it as far as far as Nausori International wherever that was, Fiji I think, I would have to look it up to be sure, but ten to one it was further up the end of nowhere.

I booked my flights and headed to LHR. As luck would have it I had a note of Mutley’s credit card including the three digit security code and so I was able to book the flights online and charge the flights to our dear leader. I was unhappy about the instructions on getting the gun to my destination. I was to pack it in my checked in baggage and to put the strange green “Fragile” sticker on the case.  Reluctantly I did this and started on my journey. Again I thought what have I got myself into?

Six days later I was in position and waiting for things to happen. The “Fragile” sticker had done its work and the gun was with me and still making me nervous.  A week later I was still waiting for things to happen. There is only a certain amount of stuff one can do in the rear end of nowhere and despite the idyllic surroundings I was getting a bit cheesed off. The other guests at the hotel were very nice, in fact I thought I recognized one from somewhere, but I must have been mistaken.

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Even Paradise can become a bore with no good beer and only a few types of Gin.

And then one day that looked like it was lining up to be just like the rest, Jasmine appeared and joined me for breakfast. She ignored my surprise at her being there and explained that as soon as the Baton arrived we would be taking it to NVVN White Grass on the island of Tanna., and would be away as soon as we had the thing in our hands. We would be taking a cargo, six passengers, who I would meet later on the aircraft. “What are we flying” I asked. “A Chinook” she replied. I was dumfounded. Out here in a Chinook?

Jasmin then asked “We think one of Putinfeld’s goons if shadowing you, have you seen anyone suspicious?” I replied I hadn’t. “Good” she said. “And now we wait for Tim, he is due in soon, we have received his radio blip, he will be landing very soon.” Thank God for that I thought to myself.

As we made our way to the airport bar, Jasmine confided in me, saying that an attempt had been made on Tim’s life at the start of the previous leg, and not by a hit man or one of his goons but by the man himself. No wonder she had given me a gun.

As we approached the bar an RAF King Air was taxing toward the stand. “There seems to be a large RAF presence here?” I questioned.  Jasmine didn’t reply.

We were waiting for our drinks to be served, Tim hustled into the bar. He couldn’t get rid of the baton quickly enough. And once given made his excuses and left.  Anyone would think the Baton was dangerous.

I weighed the Baton in my hand, odd I thought, it seems heavier than on leg five.  I said my goodbyes and headed out to the aircraft.  Jasmin grabbed me by the arm and hassled me over to the Chinook. “You fly, I will take that” she said grabbing the Baton.

“What are you doing..” I exclaimed as she started to unscrew the base of the famous blue bar. The end came away and a large silver object slid out.  It was a couple of inches shorter than the baton and slim enough to fit snugly inside. I as we neared the aircraft, I remarked to Jasmine that it looked like a space age key. “Almost correct” she said. “It’s the key to a Chinese Nuclear Bomb”. I was stunned. My personal arms race had just gone from silenced pistol to nightmare in under a minute! What have I got myself into?

“How did you know it was there? I asked as we did a quick walk around the aircraft.

She didn’t answer until we were climbing aboard. “We didn’t know for sure, but when one of our watchers saw someone break into Mrs Wu's Guesthouse and the room of another ATWC pilot in Nanjing we knew something was wrong. We checked the room after the miscreant had left and found nothing missing, the Baton was still there. It wasn’t until much later that we realized that the point of the break-in was not to take but to deposit this key”

“Why would anyone do that?” I asked already working down the pre-start checklist.

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Our steed.

“Because Putinfeld knows just how hard it is to stop the baton in its annual journey, and he wanted a way to smuggle it out of China. We know that the bomb he purchased was ex-Chinese, although we are still working on how he got it, and the supply of this key was the final part of the deal. All he had to do was to get it out of China”. Explained Jasmine between checklist replies.

Next up was the engine start checklist.

“Who would supply a nuke to a nut like Putinfeld”? I asked as we started plowing through checklist.

“We think it came from the pariah state of The Democratic Republic of Cloud Cuckoo-land or the DRCC and it is better known. Its leader, Corbybinski is a real head case and would do anything to sow havoc in the west.

“Is he the guy known as ‘The Supreme Leader’?” I asked.

“That is the guy” was Jasmine’s reply.

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Engines running, take off imminent.

We ended the checklist and were almost ready to fly. We had completed the half hour preflight process in a little under ten minutes. A bit of a rush but we couldn’t waste time as we didn’t want our enemies to have a chance to realize we knew about the key. “Get in the air and head north east for now and I will load the flight plan”

I pulled on the collective and we were soon in the air and transitioning into forward flight, while Jasmine worked on the navigation systems.

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Away we go.

We flew northwards. Now with a plan now loaded, wich took us in a straight line towards NVVW White Grass.

 

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Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

We would cross the island of Mare and continue to the Island of Tanna and White Grass Airport. Most of our flight would be over water, so not much to do in the sight seeing line then.

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Passing the Aerodrome at La Roche on the island of Mare.

Shortly after overflying the island of Mare and after about forty five minutes into the flight Jasmin said that she would take control and that I should go back aft and meet the boys. “What boys” I said.

“You will see” she said, “no photos of the guys and give them this” she handed me the key. I ducked back aft and was surprised to see six Royal Navy SBS troops in full diving gear, rebreathers and all.

Before I knew it one of these strange apparitions stepped forward and said “I am Major Brown Royal Marines, I believe you have something for me”. I handed him the key. “Thanks” he said and secured it into a pocket on his rebreather straps. He introduced me to the other men, there was one sergeant and four marines, going by the names of Sargent Black and Marines Grey, Green and White. I somehow didn’t think they were their real names. “Please can you give Jasmine this” Major Brown said and handed what amounted to a small black cylinder the same size and shape as the key. It was clear that I was being dismissed and so I went back to my pilot’s seat. Jasmin grinned, with a cheeky smile, she said “One of your mates had these guys protecting their baton flight in a Sentinel and still doesn’t know it!”

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More of the wet stuff.

Jasmin then switched on a small switch on the top of the cylinder, dropped it into the baton and screwed up the top. It was a bit lighter than before but not enough to cause suspicion.

“No doubt you are wondering what that was. Well it’s a tracker. We can now track the Baton.” Quickly she went on to say “We are approaching our first rendezvous, take her down to 100 ft.”

“What!” I exclaimed. “We are nowhere near White Grass we have 90 miles to go yet”.

“We are not landing, the Major and his guys’ just need dropping off.” Was the reply. “I will talk you down and on to the GPS coordinates.”

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Out the back, the sea. Marines gone.

Down we went and I slowed the ship down as Jasmin talked me on the bit of sea we needed. We came to the hover 100 ft. above the required co-ordinates, and then Jasmin guided me down further.  This was to be a tricky bit of flying. I needed to go low enough to enable the Marines to safely jump into the water. If I didn’t go low enough they couldn’t jump, too low and the sea would pour in to the rear cargo space making the aircraft too heavy to takeoff. If that happened, we would all be in the drink.

 

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Just free of our human cargo hovering over the sea.

Fortunately we performed the drop well and nothing went wrong.  I pulled on the collective and glanced out the window to see if I could see any of the men. I could not, however I did see the white crest of water where the sea was being parted by a periscope. The key was gone the baton was still on its journey and nobody outside this aircraft any the wiser.

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There she blows!

There was a question that I had meant to ask Jasmin at the start of the flight, but everything else going on I had forgotten to broach it. “How are we getting from White Grass to Nausori International in Fiji?” I asked.

“There are a few possibilities in the frame, it just depends on serviceability” she said, “I can’t say more than that”.

Okay, so it seems I must wait and see.

By this time we were but 25 miles from our destination, and so we set to and started our landing preparations.

 

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Our intermediate destination in sight.

The island of Tanna and its aerodrome soon hove into view and we started our approach. The airport is a small place with a short runway, but at least it wasn’t a grass strip.

I started the decent and approached the airfield on the seaward side bring her into a relatively fast decent terning into towards the runway at the last moment. Yes, ok, I was showing off a little.

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At the hover

I bought the Chinook in towards the runway and flared into a low hover to the side of the runway, the grass under me thrashing around in the aircrafts downdraft.  I set the aircraft down in a convenient spot to access the small airport building, near a couple of Twin Otters. Don’t get me wrong, they are great little aircraft, but I prayed they weren’t involved in the next part of this leg. I much prefer something a little more challenging.

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Taxi to parking

A small man came running towards the aircraft waving his hand in the air. I wonder what he wants. Jasmin ducked out the back of the cockpit space, jumped down on to the tarmac and bent double under the rota downwash made her way over to the man. There was a vision of the two of them shouting at each other and then Jasmin scurried back to the aircraft. "He says you can't park here. You will be fined if you do." Feking traffic wardens, they get everywhere. I taxied over to an obvious parking spot.

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I shut the aircraft down and we left the ship together. Jasmine wandered over to a public phone as I went into the small bar and ordered a tonic water, ice and a slice. I didn’t know when we were going to start our second stretch of this leg, so an alcohol free gin and tonic (tonic and tonic) would have to do for now.

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Am I being followed? Surely not!

Drink downed and no sign of Jasmine. I had a look around the airport to kill time until she showed up. Funny, I had the feeling I was being followed again. I couldn’t see any one out of place, maybe I am imagining it.

 

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Terrific tale J.G., it's nice to see the baton's so far wasted inner space getting some utilization in this saga.

We really need some theme music for J.G.s Baton legs.

Something like this perhaps?

 

Looking forward to the next appendage!

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Superb JG, loved the commentary all the way from the Stephan Langton to the airport at Tanna .

The Chinook was a masterstroke, the enemy wouldn't ever expect us to use such a conspicuous aircraft. :D

Strange, I always feel like eating a Micky D's burger after reading your PIREPS, is there some form of autosuggestion built in, or is it something to do with orange hair?

 

 

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nice one JG, great rep, I knew the guy in the photos reminded me of someone, I'll have a chocolate shake Joe...

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Nicely done JG,:cool: great choice of aircraft for the storyline and as usual I get a kick out of Jasmine pulling your strings.:D

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Nice to see the bootnecks finally showed their faces - explains the mysteries blips we occasionally got on the edge of our TCAS. Oh and Colonel Potter over at RAF Benson sends his regards and asks when he can have his Chinook back?

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